A neo-Nazi website operator is not excused from returning to the United States for questioning under oath in a lawsuit accusing him of orchestrating an anti-Jewish “troll storm” against a Montana real estate agent’s family, a federal judge has ruled.
The Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin claims it’s too dangerous for him to travel to the US, but Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch ruled on Friday that Anglin’s personal safety concerns are “factually unsupported” and no basis for a protective order sparing him from an in-person deposition in the US.
One of Anglin’s attorneys, Marc Randazza, said in a text message to the Associated Press on Monday that his client has made it clear to him and to the court that he won’t return to the US. Randazza said he expects that Anglin would “willingly” accept a default judgment against him before returning to the US for a deposition by Tanya Gersh’s attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
“The end result of that will be that the SPLC will get a piece of paper, my client will pay nothing and there won’t even be a decision on the legal merits, at least clarifying the law. Everyone loses,” Randazza wrote.
In the lawsuit she filed in Montana against Anglin in 2017, Gersh claimed anonymous internet trolls bombarded her family with hateful and threatening messages after Anglin published their personal information, including her 12-year-old son’s Twitter handle and photo.
In a string of posts, Anglin had accused Gersh and other Jewish residents of Whitefish, Montana, of engaging in an “extortion racket” against the mother of Richard Spencer, a prominent white supremacist and leading figure of the alt-right. The alt-right is a loosely knit coalition of white supremacists, white nationalists and neo-Nazis that advocates a white ethnostate.
Gersh said she had agreed to help Spencer’s mother sell commercial property she owns in Whitefish amid talk of a protest outside the building. Sherry Spencer, however, later accused Gersh of threatening and harassing her into agreeing to sell the property.
In the months that follow Anglin’s first post about Gersh, the real estate agent’s inbox, voicemail and mailbox filled up with death threats, harassment and hate messages.
Among the messages sent to Gersh, according to the lawsuit, was one that said: “Listen here you f****** Jew. You had better back off of Richard Spencer’s mom. Everybody is watching you.”
Speaking to Al Jazeera in August 2017, David Dinielli, an SPLC lawyer, said the wave of harassment triggered by Anglin is a part of an ongoing shift in the way people “terrorise” others.
“In the past, they would have burned a cross on the lawn,” he told Al Jazeera at the time. “Now they’re doing it from behind a keyboard.”
Anglin, an Ohio native, claims he hasn’t been to the US since 2012. He refuses to disclose his current whereabouts, claiming he gets death threats. But he has said he took up residence in the Philippines sometime before 2010, moved to Greece in 2013 and then moved to Cambodia four days before Tanya Gersh sued him in 2017.
Anglin’s attorneys had argued that the court can order Anglin’s deposition to take place abroad or by telephone or video conference. Court records show Anglin suggested meeting in Cuba or Venezuela for his deposition – a suggestion that Gersh’s attorneys found dubious.
Her lawyers from the Alabama-based law centre said Anglin’s request amounted to baseless gamesmanship.
“Since the outset of this case, [Anglin] has displayed a pattern of disregard for the authority of this Court and the seriousness of these proceedings,” they wrote in a court filing.
Gersh’s attorneys said they recently deposed Richard Spencer “without incident, and without publicising either the fact of the deposition or its location or timing”.
Lynch said he is willing to order that the time and place of Anglin’s deposition be kept confidential.
Gersh’s suit accuses Anglin of invading her privacy, intentionally inflicting “emotional distress” and violating a Montana anti-intimidation law.
Anglin’s site takes its name from Der Sturmer, a newspaper that published Nazi propaganda in Nazi-era Germany, and includes sections called “Jewish Problem” and “Race War”.
Since the deadly August 12 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, when a white supremacist killed a 32-year-old activist when he ploughed his car into a crowd of anti-racists, Daily Stormer has struggled to maintain a home online.
After that rally, Anglin lambasted the victim, Heather Heyer, on his website, prompting GoDaddy to boot the neo-Nazi blog. It has since been kicked from one web hosting service to another, often forced to operate on the dark web.